Out-to-in runs have been a defining part of Spurs tactics under Mauricio Pochettino and one of his most lethal weapons.
It’s been Spurs best season in the Premier League era. Our highest finish, a tighter defence, slicker attacking and a +34 goal difference have all come about from having a defined philosophy, one that Mauricio Pochettino religiously preaches.
Mauricio’s mantra has come a long way since last season, but just what have we seen that has shaped our record setting campaign?
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be looking at ten typical Pochettino tactical trends that have shaped our season and the way our team now plays.
We start with out-to-in runs. Its a tactic that Mauricio Pochettino has long used and one that he is honing with more weapons at his disposal at Spurs.
An out-to-in run can take several forms. In its most simple state it comes from a wide player darting inside and popping up in a central position where defenders don’t expect him to be. But it can also come from a central player drifting wide to lose defensive coverage and then returning quickly back in to the middle. It is this dual movement of players that Mauricio Pochettino has used to great effect with Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino teams have always had at least one player that makes out-to-in runs. Jay Rodriguez was that man at Southampton and he was the team’s top scorer in Pochettino’s only full season there.
What’s made Spurs more effective is that Mauricio Pochettino now has several players that can and are making these runs. Erik Lamela, Son Heung-Min, Nacer Chadli and even Dele Alli all get involved when selected in the side. This gives the team multiple attack points from which to loosen up the opposition.
What we’ve seen at Spurs are different forms of this run. Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min are very direct from the wide positions, whereas Nacer Chadli is more of stealthy mover. Dele Alli, when he moves out from the centre and then back in, is the most direct and powerful runner of everyone.
Game-time tactical examples
There are several cases where the team will look for a player making out-to-in runs in order to attack a defence depending on their set up.
A typical out-to-in run can see a swift burst of pace from a wide area loosen up a defence that is sat back.
Eric Dier finds Son Heung-Min making the out-to-in run here to catch Liverpool off guard.
Often in these situations against teams that are sat back, the pass will come from either a deep position or a diagonal from the other side of the field. This is intended to catch the defence off guard and off balance.
Dier’s pass to Son was an example of the deeper ball finding the out-to-in runner. Christian Eriksen’s pass for Erik Lamela cutting from out-to-in for a header against Man Utd was a great example of the shorter diagonal ball.
In both cases the player is looking to make his run and receive the ball beyond the oppsoition’s back line to create a high-percentage chance of scoring.
It can also be used to overload an opposition’s centre backs after a turnover is created in their half. The defence in this situation is often off balance and not set. Son’s goal in Chelsea 2-2 Spurs at the Bridge was a prime example.
After the turnover, the ball carrier, Eriksen, draws the centre back, Terry, out. Harry Kane and Erik Lamela hold their lanes to spread the rest of the defenders to keep space for Son’s out-to-in run.
The other form of transition out-to-in run we often witness is a breakout that leads to the ball switching from one side of the pitch to the out-to-in runner on the other.
Erik Lamela’s goal in our 3-0 win over Man Utd was a textbook tactical Pochettino goal. The ball switched sides of the pitch twice as Kyle Walker swung it all the way over to Danny Rose. The left back then provided the second switch by driving it in low towards Erik Lamela making the out-to-in run from the right flank.
This caught the Man Utd defence hopelessly off guard due to the multiple switches in the position of the ball in the attack and the movement of players flooding forward.
Central player out-to-in runs
The tactic is equally as versatile, and often at it’s best, when using a player that is supposed to be starting in a central position to make the run.
Toby Alderweireld’s long diagonals to Dele Alli, who will often drift out to the left and then dart back in to the centre, are one example.
Against Everton, Dele Alli had drifted out to the left flank to make this his starting position before making the out-to-in run. His movement catches right back Seamus Coleman just off guard enough to create the separation he needs to score.
Alli has been making these runs all season; you only have to think of his goals against West Brom or Southampton. It was noticeable how we were lacking with these types of runs from a player that was supposed to be starting centrally in the games he missed, as we simply don’t have a comparable player that can do this.
Out-to-in runs overall
Players making out-to-in runs are a Pochettino hallmark. It is central to his philosophy of overloading the centre by having players pop up in positions where an opposing defence wouldn’t expect them to normally be.
At Spurs he possibly has the greatest number of options at his disposal that he has ever had in his managerial career to carry this out. Lamela, Son, Chadli and Alli are the main options, but we are yet to fully see what Clinton N’Jie and Josh Onomah can truly add in this department.
How Pochettino develops the tactic will be one thing to watch for next season. In the shorter term, it is the question of if he invests over the summer in a player that can make the out-to-in runs from a central starting position in the way that Dele Alli has been?